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MIT Drops DRM-Laden Journal Subscription 141

Posted by kdawson
from the whose-intellectual-property? dept.
Gibbs-Duhem writes with news that MIT has dropped its subscription to the Society of Automotive Engineers' web-based database of technical papers over the issue of DRM. The SAE refuses to allow any online access except through an Adobe DRM plugin that limits use and does not run on Linux or Unix. Also, the SAE refuses to let its papers even be indexed on any site but their own. SAE's use of DRM is peculiar to say the least, as they get their content for free from the researchers who actually do the work. And those researchers have choices as to where they send their work, and some of the MIT faculty are pretty vocal about it. From the MIT Library News: "'It's a step backwards,' says Professor Wai Cheng, SAE fellow and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, who feels strongly enough about the implications of DRM that he has asked to be added to the agenda of the upcoming SAE Publication Board meeting in April, when he will address this topic."
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MIT Drops DRM-Laden Journal Subscription

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  • A Step Forward (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @05:55PM (#18421871) Homepage Journal
    The issues of academic journals is becoming hugely problematic. Many institutions cannot afford subscriptions and the journals claim they have to charge such rates in order to stay in business. I would suggest that the enormous proliferation of specialized journals indicates that they in actuality are quite profitable. For those that do not know, there are also costs associated with publication in those same journals including costs for publishing images that can be stunningly high. One has to wonder just what the problem is with such high costs when organizations like PLOS [plos.org] and Molecular Vision [molvis.org] have so much lower costs of entry, publication and distribution.

    Note: I don't necessarily have a problem with profitability and am perfectly happy with a capitalistic approach to academic journals. However, what I *do* have a problem with is outrageous usage policies including DRM that is more problematic and slows progress, unfairly leveraged (illegal) monopolies, preventing fair usage and profiting from publicly funded science and engineering without fairly compensating the paying public or providing access to resources that have been paid in full for.

    • Re:A Step Forward (Score:5, Insightful)

      by afidel (530433) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:07PM (#18422009)
      Since the researchers are rarely paid anything (and in some cases pay to be published!) and the reviewers are rarely paid much if anything I think the only costs are in profit and production and distribution. In the age of the internet production and distribution costs have been reduced to such a degree that it literally costs fractions of a penny per page. The answer to me is obvious, more online distribution of small (and not so small) journals. Yes dead tree is nice at times, but the content indexing and searching facilities of electronic media far outweigh the deadtree advantages, at least for me.
      • by solafide (845228)
        >I think the only costs are in profit and production and distribution

        Profit is one hard cost to stomach, isn't it. Anyway, some of us still enjoy our monthly deadtree journal, though admittedly all mine are from the MAA [maa.org]. There's something about rarity that makes them feel more important.

      • Yes dead tree is nice at times, but the content indexing and searching facilities of electronic media far outweigh the deadtree advantages, at least for me.


        Agreed, and if you want it on a deadtree you can always print it for offline reading. Not nearly as easy to get it back digital (yeah, you could scan paper into an image, but OCR really isn't where it needs to be for that to be viable for searching and indexing)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by symes (835608)
        The whole issue of academic publications needs a thoroughly good rethink. There's far too much emphasis placed on fat CVs bulging with papers that no one will ever read. And seriously, on some academic's web pages the first thing you'll read is about some Prof's 200 or so publications. I feel that this emphasis on quantity over quality, as much as anything, is creating a market for more journals and in turn pushing academic institutions to subscribe to them. Reduce the emphasis on quantity then reviewer
        • Re:A Step Forward (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jmv (93421) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:19PM (#18423807) Homepage
          There's far too much emphasis placed on fat CVs bulging with papers that no one will ever read.

          Actually, there's an increasing emphasis on the number of citations you get on your publications. Making the paper freely available online has been shown (by someone from Google, but can't find the reference) to increase citation rates dramatically.

          And seriously, on some academic's web pages the first thing you'll read is about some Prof's 200 or so publications.

          These are generally papers written by students. If the prof's been around for a while, it makes sense that he's co-authored hundreds of papers with his students.

          Reduce the emphasis on quantity then reviewers will be happier and journals will be less prone to screw around.

          Not sure what that would change for journals. What I think would be interesting to emphasise is short (letter-type) papers where researchers can make public minor, but useful results, without the overhead of normal publishing.
        • by MindKata (957167)
          "needs a thoroughly good rethink"

          The way it is currently, the only people who are winning are the bosses who own the submission sites. One of the biggest problems I keep finding is trying to find researchers work. I read about some great new paper then when I try to find it, it turns out its only on some pay to view site. In the end I give up, so the researcher looses out as far less people see their work and I loose out as I can't see their work. I can't afford to pay (out of my own pocket) every time
      • by jfengel (409917)
        There is one more cost: management. The papers don't get from researchers to reviewers for free. They maintain an office, and a number of people work in that office. At least one of them is probably a full-time PhD; it's not just secretaries putting things in the mailbox. And remember that a secretary making $20k per year really costs $40k, by the time you've paid FICA, health insurance, 401(k), etc. The PhD probably costs considerably more.

        I don't know how much that costs. Probably a few hundred thousa
        • by Machtyn (759119)

          There is one more cost: management.

          Sure, there may be a lot of costs associated with printing a publication. The problem is, all other publications have the same, if not more, costs. Yet, they are able to sell at a lot lower costs. More over, many other publications, which may not have as many publications, more advertisement, have a more frequent publishing cycle and actually pay the people who write the articles.

          Many of these technical publications take the cake from both sides. They charge the people who write the articles and they

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by Hognoxious (631665)
          Manpower that could be redeployed at a greater overall utility sweeping dogshit off the streets. Just to clarify, the hound mounds are second priority, to do after they've cleaned away all the IP lawyers.
        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          The papers don't get from researchers to reviewers for free.

          Bullshit. All of the editors for several Elsevier journals with which I'm familiar deal with the journal entirely through their web site. All of the papers are submitted as PDF files. All of the reviewers get their papers as PDF files. All of my contact with reviewers and those that submit papers is done through an interface on the Elsevier web page that has to be freeware, it's so awful. The last time I actually had to talk to a human being at

          • Re:A Step Forward (Score:5, Interesting)

            by pq (42856) <rfc2324&yahoo,com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @11:08PM (#18424609) Homepage
            All of the editors for several Elsevier journals with which I'm familiar deal with the journal entirely through their web site. All of the papers are submitted as PDF files. All of the reviewers get their papers as PDF files. All of my contact with reviewers and those that submit papers is done through an interface on the Elsevier web page that has to be freeware, it's so awful.

            I've been an editor for an Elsevier journal, and I second everything the parent says, except for the web interface being freeware. That web interface - oh my God - is so bad that no self-respecting developer could have released it as freeware. It has got to be a consultant or in-house hack job. It is simply absurdly bad.

            Strangely, the non-profit University of Chicago journals I've refereed for don't seem to have this problem, only the for-profit Elsevier ones. Make of that what you will.

      • I've had several friends in academic journal publishing, and so have heard a bit of this from their side:

        Editing is hard work. Maintaining a consistently high quality of writing, articles that are appropriately in-depth but accessible to the readership, sniffing out the studies that define or redefine the field.

        Copy editing is brutal. Technical terms abound, the language mustn't be turgid but a certain level of gravitas is often excpected, understanding those nuances is a specialized skill.

        Typsesetting c

        • by jabuzz (182671)
          Typesetting of mathematical formulas is piss easy, and the bunch that produces them most (mathematicians and physicists) all use TeX/LaTeX anyway. In the department where I work the print on paper is *not* the media of record. Once the initial article has been read that is it. From then on it will be kept on file as a PDF. Software like Endnote will even kept this all together for you in a nice searchable database, or you can just use something like Google Desktop search.

          Our institution (a large UK universi
        • by jmv (93421) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:45PM (#18423059) Homepage
          (note, I'm talking about scientific journals, like the IEEE ones)

          Editing is hard work. Maintaining a consistently high quality of writing, articles that are appropriately in-depth but accessible to the readership, sniffing out the studies that define or redefine the field.

          The writing is actually done by authors -- who get no monetary compensation.

          Typsesetting can be a misery when working with formulas & like content that has gone through several cycles of review & fine-tuning. Journals shouldn't read like ransom notes.

          Most authors submit LaTeX, which is what the journals use I believe.

          Reviewers do cost. Finding them, vetting them, coordinating them.

          No they don't. I've so far reviewed dozens of paper and still haven't received anything. Not that I'm expecting a compensation, just saying the reviewers aren't being paid (they couldn't afford to pay them anyway).

          Illustrations are worth a thousand words, but a consistently good technical illustrator is a rare bird to be treasured.

          Except they don't make the illustrations, the authors provide them. Worse, you send them a nice, clean vector figure (eps) and all they do is convert it to a raster image.

          Fact-checking, background-reviews, identifying possible conflicts-of-interest, that's a lot of hard-work administrivia that is expected now.

          Facts are checked by the reviewers. Conflicts-of-interest are generally not handled, or if they are, it's often post-publication.

          Then there are the basic internal administrative costs of keeping the lights on, payroll met, licensing the typefaces, getting the parking lot snowplowed, the PCs virus-free, handling the morass of profit/non-profit taxes & exemptions, all are yet more staff.

          That's about the only real cost here, but it can't explain the exorbitant fees for journals.

          Subscriber services is everyone's horror. What do you do when a professor or researcher passes out their personal subscription password to everyone, and suddenly you've got 60 sites around the world using that password? Or when Harvard wants a campus-wide subscription, but has several dozen domains folks will be coming in from, not to mention home users?

          Maybe the reason people share access is because it's so damn expensive in the first place. My current employer has a subscription to IEEE (and other) journals. If it weren't for that, I'd have to (theoretically) pay 30$ every time there's a journal paper I'd like to look at, not even knowing whether it's useful! It's just ridiculous.

          And printing on dead-trees is an expensive proposition, but still the media-of-record. In-house the press is easily a million dollars, not to mention paper, ink, staff, space, insurance, maintenance, distribution, capitol depreciation, etc. Reprints can earn top dollar but those require quality printing and must be accounted for.

          In fine if they charge for paper copies. The libraries that want those can pay for that. I just want electronic access, which costs nearly nothing.

          Blithely thinking this can all be replaced with a few emails and a database is probably woefully optimistic. Doubtless there is room for journals produced thus, but ones with an active editorial process and rather richer content are probably around for while too; their ecological niche is still a valuable one to their communities.

          The most valuable parts of the process (authoring and reviewing) are already done for free. I don't think the associate editors get paid either, so I strongly believe an open process is now possible with just a bit of funding (same kind of funding as many open-source projects get).
          • To reply to these points:

            Editing, refereeing, and managing the cost of peer review

            This is not a trivial cost, indeed, it is a substantial cost. The "first copy cost" of a journal I worked for was 80% of the total cost (that's getting the content ready for the printers, not the cost of printing or distribution). This doesn't mean that printing online is 20% cheaper either: the cost of setting up the web version of the content, and managing access, was higher than the cost of setting up the press. In other wo
            • by jmv (93421)
              Although journal referees do not get paid, there are plenty of costs involved in peer review. Articles have to be vetted before being sent out to referee, referees have to be found, and chased, editorial decisions have to made, and the entire process has to be administered.

              This is done by associate editors, who get paid very little, if at all.

              The peer review process costs, for major journals, millions of dollars a year.

              Care to detail where these millions go?

              Then there are the costs for editing (good scienti
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            jmv has it exactly right.

            The typical journal publication process consists of these phases. VBP = Value Added by Publishers:

            • Authors write and submit paper. The paper is typically typeset in latex, with high-quality figures already present. VBP = 0.
            • The editor sends copies of the paper to reviewers. Some editors receive a small compensation for this (typically to pay a slice of the time of a secretary), but often do not. VBP The reviewers review the paper. Reviewers, typically faculty or research
      • by gatzke (2977)

        I would much rather publish in online journals, but dead tree is better respected generally.

        At the same time, students don't go get hard copies. If it isn't online it does not exist.

        A buddy brought up the EMP problem: in WW III, a nuke over the US will break a lot of computers. Maybe the online journals go away, but maybe the dead tree survive the apocalypse. Think Planet of the Apes.
      • Re:A Step Forward (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:22PM (#18422847)
        I used to work for SAE a few years ago. Though I can't comment in any official capacity, I'd like to clear a couple of things up:

        The comments here that suggest that SAE gets all this work for nothing are uninformed. It is true that researchers donate their time to standard creation, but SAE spends a great of money sponsoring the publication of technical articles, including but not limited to:

        * Document standardization and editing - SAE employs many professional editors that turn papers into defined standards. If you'd ever seen the amount of time spent on a DTD for the standard, you'd understand the investment here.

        * Conferences - SAE hosts and sponsors conferences and meetings with technical standard creators. The costs of bringing researchers together are not tiny, to say the least.

        * Delivery systems - The IT systems and staff that deliver these standards in electronic format sure aren't free. The dead-tree formats were also associated with enormous production costs.

        * Education - SAE sponsors quite a lot of educational programs for K-12 up into college, Formula SAE, Baja SAE, Aero Design SAE, Clean Snowmobile Challenge, or Supermileage. They also provide scholarships and loans to students. This is not cheap at all.

        Regarding the DRM (this was implemented well after I left) - It was unfortunately not at all uncommon for our standards to be purchased online and then re-sold by various unsavory third parties. It was also not at all uncommon for the electronic versions of these technical documents to be downloaded and then placed on public FTP servers for download by lots of people who didn't buy them, in violation of the terms of sale.

        As for indexing: SAE has a product line that involves selling this index in dead-tree format. This is the reason that SAE does not allow indexing of their technical document list. In my own personal opinion (not SAE's!), this never made any sense to me at all. Would you go to a restaurant that made you pay to look at the menu?

        Anyway, probably a lot has changed since I left, but hopefully this gives everyone a bit of insight.
      • by Sibko (1036168)
        A different way of doing things?

        Maybe instead of printing a monthly edition of the journal, publishers could switch to an annual edition containing all the significant content of that year, while they distribute an online monthly version at virtually no cost.
    • Note: I don't necessarily have a problem with profitability and am perfectly happy with a capitalistic approach to academic journals. ...

      I feel the same way. Sometimes, it's a good idea to hire the services of a for-profit group, and sometimes it's not. Contributors to SAE journals need to ask of the publisher, "Why should we still use you? What value are you providing?" Likely, the publisher used to do something useful, back when it was hard to aggregate the relevant information in one place, but now th
      • by metagnat (104512)
        It's possible that the for-profit publisher might still be useful as a filter. If everyone were to self-publish on the web, it would be difficult to sort the signal from the noise.

        -MG
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Drawkcab (550036)
          Filters are useful, but those exist cheaply on the web too. The web has some powerful tools for self organizing communities. There is plenty of room for free online only journals to develop. Different sites can build their reputation for quality standards just like different paper journals have. The peer review process can still be handled very much like it is now. Switching to free online solutions doesn't have to mean total anarchy where Google is the only tool for finding papers with no means of ass
        • If everyone were to self-publish on the web, it would be difficult to sort the signal from the noise.

          Maybe there could be a system where other academics in the same field assign scores (positive or negative) to papers. Then you could filter or sort by the score. Except in practical terms it couldn't work. How would you choose the people to act as the judges? My first idea was to base it on the scores of their own papers, but on second thoughts that's just unworkable.

    • The first thing anyone asks when your thinking about publishing a paper or evaluating the work of a researcher outside your area is "What the impact factor of the journal?". Impact factor is a measurement of the number of citations per article in a given journal and does give some idea of how "important" or "well read" a journal is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_factor [wikipedia.org]

      The problem is that once a journal has a high impact factor it's likely to sustain it, the best work will get sent there first as a hig
    • At least in the humanities, and I've no reason to expect that things are any different in the sciences, academic publishing is more screwed up than just the cost of the journals.

      As academics, one of the things that most universities expect is for the professors to publish. So, in effect, we are getting paid to publish. In order to get published, we have to give our copyright to the publishers. The publishers then sell the articles to article aggregators like ebsco or any of a bunch of other companies. T
  • by starseeker (141897) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:16PM (#18422121) Homepage
    The thing to do about this is to get the big names in the field to agree to transfer their efforts collectively as a body to a free journal. The ones with established careers don't have to worry about vanishing into the mists if they don't publish in a big name, and if they move their efforts as one they can shift the momentum without having to fight it out between old journal and new.

    The tools are available to do this - LaTeX is free and already in use in many cases, and there are a multitude of collaborative tools that could be used or adapted to handle article submissions and reviews. ToC at http://theoryofcomputing.org/ [theoryofcomputing.org] has some very useful LaTeX tools defined for online journal publication. All that is really needed is a) the will to do it and b) the organization and support from the major players/schools to do it.

    Authors and reviewers already do most of the work for free or worse, all that is needed now is to do that work for someone other than the folks charging high fees to control the work. (There's probably a joke in there somewhere about replacing the publishers of journals with a very small shell script...)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by radarsat1 (786772)
      This is already happening and has been for some time. At least in my field (music technology), almost all the papers I have read since beginning my master's were published in conferences, which are pretty much academic get-togethers where professors are responsible for organizing the event and having the proceedings published. Whats more is the conferences tend to move around, so every year a different organizer is responsible for the whole thing, so the work load is completely shared by everyone in the o
    • by themadhamster (871845) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @12:25AM (#18425065)
      And we do. For example, all the editors of the very prestigious but very expensive math journal Topology recently resigned. The same editors then started a new journal, Journal of Topology, with much lower prices. The researchers already do all the work anyway, so this is a much better arrangement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:17PM (#18422131)
    OMG! MIT drops SAE DB of TP over DRM. FWIW, IANAL, but DRM PDF's are not A-OK at EDU's.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:25PM (#18422201) Journal
    Academics just want to publish. They want their papers to be spread far and wide and critiqued and expanded on. That's what they're for. The academic journals traditionally served this purpose.

    But we don't need them any more. Almost all of the information can be rendered in HTML, will be freely hosted by universities, gets indexed by google, and spread via all sorts of communication forums. Why do we need the journals? We don't. They've simply become parasites.
    • by ivan256 (17499) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:30PM (#18422273)
      There is still room for trust. A well known publication with a respected community of reviewers adds something to a paper. It adds authority through the trust readers place in an established journal.

      The real question is that since distribution and publication costs have gone down so much, why do we need to pay so much for access to these journals?
      • by 91degrees (207121)
        True. But I think this is an inefficient way of producing trust. Quite a few websites such as Wikipedia (and even Slashdot) have a certain level of reliability, and these have a trust mechansism set up in a pretty ad-hoc manner. A full time staff of reviewers costs a lot of money. It's not needed as long as you can find some other way to promote the paper. I think this is the Cathedral and the Bazaar all over again.
        • by EvanED (569694)
          Quite a few websites such as Wikipedia (and even Slashdot) have a certain level of reliability...

          If I'm reading a paper from, say, PLDI, I am pretty sure that it is at least a decent paper. It's probably a pretty good paper. I know that it has been read by the authors, probably by other people in their research groups, possibly by people at other universities, by 3 or 4 reviewers, and at least skimmed by the rest of the panel.

          If I read a Wikipedia entry on a non-controversial subject, I'm pretty sure it was
          • What the GP post was getting at is that we can have "trusted and credible" reviewers without involving the journal middlemen. Is your trust in the journal or in the reviewer for the journal? Why is it that the reviewer himself has credibility? If you say "Because he has been in the journal" then I'm going to say "circular reasoning". If you say because the reviewer is accomplished in his field and is consistently correct about the works of others then you can see where we are going with this.

            Any give
            • by EvanED (569694)
              What the GP post was getting at is that we can have "trusted and credible" reviewers without involving the journal middlemen.

              I'll agree, but it's not trivially established either. I'm not sure how to do it. It's probably something like your blog-like sites, but that's not a complete solution either. Who moderates? You've almost just moved the journal online and allowed comments, with the panel of people who accept/reject papers replaced by the panel of moderators.

              And if you want to have a real-world confere
          • by 91degrees (207121)
            True. It's not the same. I didn't mean to suggest it was.

            But I think you can say more of Wikipedia than "not created maliciously". The discussion pages will tell you a lot about just how reliable the information is. And the reason I mentioned this is that you can have a minimal level of trust even in something that is designed in an ad-hoc manner. Wikipedia is leagues ahead of those chain emails that tell you all sorts of "fascinating facts". It has a bibliography and everything. The main drawback
        • Quite a few websites such as Wikipedia (and even Slashdot) have a certain level of reliability
          I've subpoenad slashdot to reveal your IP. Then I'll go to your ISP and get your street address. Because I got a bill here for a new keyboard and you owe me, buddy.
      • by buxton2k (228339)
        And trust is the central issue for academic journals. The prestige of being published, the usefulness of subscribing to a journal - both are based on the assumption of trust that a given journal will be publishing credible articles. But that trust is simply based on peer-review. That is, a journal's trust is nothing but trust in the peer-review process. And peer-reviewers, like the authors and (on small journals) the editors themselves, are unpaid to begin with.

        Academic journals are:
        1) filled with informati
    • by DingerX (847589)
      Alright, I cut out a long, rambling philosophical discussion of the subject, explaining with charts and graphs why you're wrong. Instead, I'll cut to the chase. Think of it this way: if you turned slashdot karma back into a numeric value, and then gave the top 200 karma-laden users jobs as professional posters to news aggregators in general, those users would continue to whore slashdot, ignore the other sites, and establish a hierarchy based on the number of +5 slashdot posts, irrespective of their content.
    • I set up a wiki [editthis.info] a few seconds ago, for the sole purpose of providing a place for the automotive engineering community to post its research online in a free and open manner.

      I've done my part by creating an open forum and setting the default admin password (GMail me at my slashdot username for this). Now all that needs to happen is some automotive engineers need to start posting their papers in their new wiki.
    • Almost all of the information can be rendered in HTML, will be freely hosted by universities, gets indexed by google, and spread via all sorts of communication forums.

      If you're really interested in storing and distributing information long term, you'd not use computers or electricity. Daylight and eyeballs are generally free, open-source, and pretty darn reliable in most cases...
    • i don't see the point of why we need journals anymore since all the information can be posted on the WWW ...not only because the fact it can be easily accessed from any place with internet connection (which is everywhere right now)...it also save alot of cost ..it cost quite some money to produce a paper..and cost even alot more to process the paper once it'd turned into rubbish.
  • Dont they know its practically impossible to protect something like a academic paper. This kind of DRM is easily defeated, probably with just the print screen button, whats the point?
    • by 91degrees (207121)
      You could probably email the writer of the paper and ask for a non-protected copy with a decent rate of success if you email from a .edu domain.
  • Academics publish on their own websites. Journals provide an index of articles on a related topic. Journals sell either subscriptions or ads, and can collect earth moneys in proportion to the service that they actually provide, which is an *index* not a *content creator*.
  • Gravy Train derails (Score:5, Informative)

    by BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:42PM (#18422405) Journal
    Did you know that when an academic writes a paper, to get it published, they have to surrender the copyright to the academic journal? After that, they can't even give copies away. If someone wants to see it, they're supposed to point them to the journal publisher where they can "buy" reprints.

    Who are these academic publishers? Springer, Wiley, etc. Try doing a scholarly search in Google. You'll find many PDF entries show a few words from the article, but no [cache]. When you click, you seen none of the article, but are taken to a "Pay Up!" page run by Springer, Wiley, etc. I wish Google wouldn't even waste my time listing these. (Note they even make an exception, allowing them to show one version of the web page to Google and another to the public. BMW was blacklisted by Google for doing this. Why are these publishers allowed to get away with it?)

    In the pre-Internet days they could get away with it. But with the Internet, these companies should have dropped out of the business. Certainly Universities are sick of paying big bucks and would love to spend their money on more important things. Many third world countries can't afford them period:

    http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/121004ohanluain/ [ojr.org]
    http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6289896.ht ml [libraryjournal.com]

    Springer, Wiley etc should have gone out of business, but they've managed to hang on. How? In part due to Academics who still contribute to them. Prestige and promotion depends on having their papers published in 'prominent' journals. There are alternatives: peer-reviewed journals, organisational or web sites. What really stinks is most of this research is paid for by the tax payer. But the taxpayer has to pay Springer, Wiley, etc to read the research they paid for.

    http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/2900/01/harnad96.pe er.review.html [soton.ac.uk]
    http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/04-01/varian.html [umich.edu]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_journal [wikipedia.org]

    Hopefully Universities will finally read academics the riot act: "We're not going to buy anymore of your publishing buddies overpriced ripoff journals, and we're not going to give you credit for being published in one either" and for government/taxpayers to say "We paid you to do the research. We're not going to let you give away the results"
    • by jmv (93421) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:56PM (#18423149) Homepage
      Did you know that when an academic writes a paper, to get it published, they have to surrender the copyright to the academic journal? After that, they can't even give copies away. If someone wants to see it, they're supposed to point them to the journal publisher where they can "buy" reprints.

      Actually, most publishers (but not all) allow you to publish on your website the accepted version of your paper. What you can't publish is the edited version that appears in the journal. That's what I do for everything I publish (see my web page). The main advantage of doing that for the authors (outside of altruism) is that you get cited more often, which also counts in your record.

      On the plus side, there are emerging journals that have an open access policy and I'm considering one of them for the next paper I submit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        > The main advantage of doing that for the authors (outside of altruism) is that you get cited more often, That's right! I can't cite you if I can't see you! :-) Some authors from prohibitive journals put a draft version which skirts around it. Many don't. Heard on NPR two weeks ago that Congress (may.. always a may!) be about to ban publishing taxpayer-funded papers in restricted-access journals. > On the plus side, there are emerging journals that have an open access policy and I'm considering one
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by daff2k (689551)
      Did you know that when an academic writes a paper, to get it published, they have to surrender the copyright to the academic journal? After that, they can't even give copies away. If someone wants to see it, they're supposed to point them to the journal publisher where they can "buy" reprints.

      (IANAL) Fortunately, it works that way only in the US (and countries with similar "extreme" copyright laws). In many European countries you cannot give away the rights to your own creation. We also distinguish between
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @08:13PM (#18423285) Homepage
      Actually you get lots of back doors into content if you change your firefox to look like a google bot when you go web surfing. I get free access to almost all magazines articles by simply using a quick user-agent string change and reload. Works great.

      I hope they don't start blacklisting as it's the best back door to bypassing pay content there is.

      • Lumpy writes:
        > change your firefox to look like a google bot when you go web surfing

        Lumpy! That's a great idea! How can we do this? Inquiring minds (literally) want to know! Great Mods await!

        daff2k writes:
        > So any journal that you submit an article to gets the right to print it,
        > but you always keep the right to distribute copies of your article yourself.

        That makes a lot more sense.

        If "intellectual property" is "Urheberrecht, does that make MIT's decision "Schadenfreude?" :-)
    • Did you know that when an academic writes a paper, to get it published, they have to surrender the copyright to the academic journal? After that, they can't even give copies away. If someone wants to see it, they're supposed to point them to the journal publisher where they can "buy" reprints.

      That's not actually true, many Open Access don't require you to surrender copyright. In fact I've never heard of a journal pressing the issue of copyright if you have a preprint on your website.

      Open Access journals are

    • by RobBebop (947356)
      And while Universities boycot the academic publishing industry and dismiss the work of students who publish in them, the rest of us can boycot the music industry and dismiss the work of artists who haven't realized they can produce and distribute original music without the help of their evil industry.

      Kill off those who are dependent on "distributors" to do the easy-part of their job for them (the hard part being actually authoring new, original work).
    • by Unipuma (532655)
      If apparently Google is allowed to read those papers, but when you visit with your browser, you aren't, there should be a simple solution:

      Use Firefox, and get the agent-switcher extension.
      https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/59/ [mozilla.org]
      Add an entry named Google, and add the following user-agent:
      Googlebot/2.1 (+http://www.google.com/bot.html)

      Now you should be able to see the same thing the Google bot sees.

      Works great for NY-Times, but you'd have to try to see if it works for these journals as well.
      • One of the earlier posters suggested this. I tried change the about:config settings and the plugin with Googlebot/2.1 (+http://www.google.com/bot.html). Unfortunately didn't work with Journals. Guess they've shut down that back route.

        Well Darth Springer, the more you tighten your grip, the more academic papers will slip through your fingers.
  • is that there are substantial costs for what passes for quality. You have reviewers, you have professionals looking at submissions and you have indexing.

    Sure, all of this can be replicated for free on the web. It is just that you throw out the "professional review" and the "professional indexing" and instead have "groupthink" and "concensus".

    Why do they want to limit access? To prevent redistribution without attribution and without their control. They may not own the rights to the original research, but
    • by Belisar (473474)

      is that there are substantial costs for what passes for quality. You have reviewers, you have professionals looking at submissions and you have indexing.

      Sure, all of this can be replicated for free on the web. It is just that you throw out the "professional review" and the "professional indexing" and instead have "groupthink" and "concensus".

      I don't know whether that's not the case in areas other than Computer Science, but I
      can assure that in CS the people reviewing papers are the same ones writing them,
      and doing so for free (hence the term 'peer review', by the way). So in other words,
      the journals are paying neither the authors not the reviewers. Sweet deal, isn't it?

    • > You have reviewers, you have professionals looking at submissions and you have indexing.

      But are the reviewers paid for their work? The 'professionals' looking at the submissions certainly are: They work for the publishing company.

      Publishing costs on the web are low. All you need is peer-reviewers which are drawn from the academic community anyway.
    • by RobBebop (947356)
      You make a good point. Publishing online can be done by any low-life with an agenda. A respectable scientific publication needs vetting. Why not form a community to do the vetting process and let "expert reviewers" in the field sign off on the quality of a submission? At the end of the article, let the reviewers post their names... and let membership to become a review be by-invitation-only (so not just anybody can sign up). Could this type of meta-moderating community support the niche that trade jour
  • Better headline (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by dbIII (701233)
    MIT Bins DRM-Laden Journal Subscription
  • by rmcd (53236) * on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:57PM (#18422595)
    Those not in academia may wonder why scholarly publishing hasn't moved more quickly to on-line alternatives. A major problem is that in order to receive tenure, an academic generally has to publish in "top journals". Top journals are determined by custom and by the history of citations, and being able to publish in them does say something good about the author. So existing high quality journals with an established reputation have monopoly power and they are exploiting it.

    This will undoubtedly change. The whole process has the air of a scam: editors and reviewers effectively donate their time (fees are typically nominal, if they even exist), and the authors surrender publication rights for free. Meanwhile, as someone else pointed out, the big publishers are starting new journals as fast as they can.

    Congrats to MIT.
  • The IEEE are as bad (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:05PM (#18422683)
    I'm posting this anon as I really don't want my name getting back to anyone in a position of authority at the IEEE (I know some of them, and... well, let's just say I'd rather stay anon), but this article pretty much sums up the sheer profiteering that goes on in academia today. My particular target is the IEEE, who - if you look at their most recent accounts - have net assets of something like $300 million, charge a fortune for membership (the lowest levels of which get almost nothing for their money, really), force you to transfer your copyright over to them when submitting to a journal or conference they sponsor or run, etc.

    Richard Stallman urges a boycott of them. The article he links to from his website is: http://cr.yp.to/writing/ieee.html [cr.yp.to]

    Read it - it's important! We ran a conference sponsored by the IEEE in the last 24 months, and we had to pay 14% of our gross expenses to them as an 'administration fee', despite them doing absolutely nothing to help us whatsoever other than to allow us to use their logo (if you want your conference to be a success and regarded highly, you need their name attached really, which is sad as it gives them so much control). If we'd lost money, they would've - at most - given us 10% of our expenses back to help us. Whatever happens, they profit, despite their tremendous net assets.

    I'd love to see what sort of salaries the upper echelons of the IEEE staff are making.... all thanks to the academics who are pretty much forced to use them....
  • by starseeker (141897) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:10PM (#18422723) Homepage
    Prestige is necessary for a journal to be a major player in a field, and such a reputation is built up over time. They sustain that reputation and academics (particularly new ones) must try to get published in those journals in order to succeed. This creates a feedback loop, as the youngest members of the community who might be the most willing to further a change to a free journal are also the most limited in their ability to buck the establishment.

    I would suggest universities and departments "grade" journals and openly state which will be regarded as acceptable publication targets. In this fashion, a review board could be created for a new journal that would have the confidence of departments and could be endorsed as a "safe" publishing target from the get-go. (It would also be a difficult target, just like the established journals, in order to evaluate students according to a standard.) With this official endorsement by "big names" in the field, some momentum could begin to shift. Younger students who are new to the system and not yet accustomed to the high prices would be more willing to try and correct what many see as a serious problem. Those trying for tenure would have less to worry about when being reviewed if their institution endorses the new publication.

    Prestige is a dangerous thing to worship, and the real reason for prestige of a journal is the content within it. I think a shakeup is way overdue.
  • OB Wiki response (Score:1, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566)
    Just to get this out of the way, no, a wiki is not a solution to replacing scholarly peer reviewed journals. OK?
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Thats a pretty broad statement. Also, it's incorrect.

      There is no reason you can't have a peer reviewed wiki.
      No, it would not be wikipedia, but it could be a wiki.

      Maybe a wiki where someone adds there paper, it is locked down and peer reviewed by authorized* persons? After which, anyone can look at and add annotations but not change the reviewed text.

      *confirmend authorized person.
    • by Myopic (18616)
      I have improved your post, wiki-style:

      Just to get this out of the way, a wiki is a solution to replacing scholarly peer reviewed journals. Okay!
  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @08:05PM (#18423215)
    technological terrorist brother?
  • And most use Firefox, so I can see why they'd want to drop such a journal.

    Time to wake up and smell the 21st century. DRM is not ready for prime time.
  • Many DRM stricken PDF (especially DRM which prevents printing)
    can be dealt with
    convert drmstricken.pdf tmp.ps; convert tmp.ps free.pdf
    in linux. While this makes the files huge and unsearchable, an
    additional OCR allows to recover most of the text. As usual,
    DRM does not prevent access, but makes it a nuisance.
    • Many DRM stricken PDF (especially DRM which prevents printing)
      can be dealt with
      convert drmstricken.pdf tmp.ps; convert tmp.ps free.pdf
      in linux. While this makes the files huge and unsearchable, an
      additional OCR allows to recover most of the text. As usual,
      DRM does not prevent access, but makes it a nuisance.


      If you are going to openly share how to do a DMCA violation; at least post AC.
      • I doubt if this violates the DMCA.
        • I doubt if this violates the DMCA.

          It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services that are used to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works

          You mean posting "Many DRM stricken PDF (especially DRM which prevents printing)
          can be dealt with is not dissemination of technology that are used to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works?

          I wonder if discussing "how to circumvent" is a violation. I was under the understanding the very discussion
    • ps2pdf tmp.ps will give you a much smaller (as in about 10% of the size of) pdf than convert will. With equal or better image quality as well.
  • I'm a double major in philosophy and psychology, and just today I submitted my first ever research grant proposal. I'll know in a month if it got approved, but if I do get it, the end result will ne a paper I'll have to deliver at both a conference and a journal. Sure, they'll be undergraduate journals, and way more accessible, but still, this makes me nervous. I'm going to have to pay to get published in academic journals, later on? I'll have to give away my rights to reprint the article, my own f@#$in
  • 'DRN' Laden, Brother of Bin.

    Silly I know ... but its been a long day.
  • Good for MIT. If only my universities weasely IT dept. would understand this sort of thing, and tear themselves away from their Windows obsession (hell, maybe even attempt to support Unix, I'm not even trying for Linux here). Oh, and stop subscribing to those stupid 'electronic books' that need an activeX plugin and don't even let you print out the pages. \RantOff.

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